You have written a book and have now summoned the courage to show it to the world. Good for you!
Your book is your baby, your pride and joy. You’ve spent countless hours writing, re-writing, editing, and proofreading and then editing and proofreading again which sometimes results in your reading your work two or three times through. It’s no easy feat and can sometimes take a year (or two or three or more) just to publish one book and that’s with the many self-publishing options we have today.
Then, someone comes along and knocks the wind out of your sails by posting a negative review. No fair, right? Well, it depends. More on that in a few.
I am going to keep this post (kind of) short and sweet and to the point (similar to how I like to write- if you don’t know, I don’t like to spend too much time on a lot of unnecessary detail- I like to let the reader use their own imagination, which surprise! is how I like to read). Also, I hope that I don't come across as whining, raving or anything like that, because I am not trying to be. I have a habit of just getting to the point and coming out and saying what I think. I am just stating what I have seen out there and my opinions.
Anyway…as authors we all know how we should behave, but do all of us follow that unwritten code of ethics? If you have scrolled through various forums on Amazon over the past few months (I like to read them to keep up on what people are talking about, reading, etc., but I do NOT participate), no doubt you will have noticed postings about authors who have exhibited bad behavior. That unfortunately makes all of us look bad.
Here are the top bad behaviors by authors that I have seen on the forums:
1. Posting negative reviews on other author’s works without having read the book. Not good. From what I have read, these authors view the authors whose work they have posted negative reviews on as competition. The best way to deal with competition is to try to stand out, or even pair up with them, not undermine them. You won’t get far by doing that, and it always comes back on you!!
That is why you will NOT see ANY negative book reviews by me. First of all, as an author, I just don’t think it would look good. In fact, it would probably look like I was trying to do the above; undermine my competition. Secondly, I can usually find something about a book that I like, and I read almost all genres. If there is a book that I just don’t like (haven’t come across one lately, but I have in the past- I will tell you that I am not a fan at all of a lot of the “classics”) I just won’t write a review on it. Also, if there is a problem or question that I have with the book that can’t or shouldn’t be addressed publicly by constructive criticism (misspellings, grammar, etc.), I contact the author directly just to make them aware of what I found and that they might want to take another look at their book.
2. Contacting readers who have left you a negative review and responding in a nasty manner or asking them or the website to remove their review. Really? That’s just bad practice. Negative reviews will come with the territory. Everyone has differing opinions on what makes a great book, so a bonafide negative review should be the reader’s personal opinion. You can’t or shouldn’t tell someone else what it is that they should like. Now, if the review wasn’t a bonafide review but you aren’t able to prove it, then you still shouldn’t say anything. Learn from it, move on and concentrate on your writing. It doesn’t fare well for your reputation by acting in that manner; in fact, you could probably kiss your writing career good-bye before it even got off the ground.
I had an instance where I left a negative (one of two in my whole life) review of a product (that is what I will leave a bad review on- a product). The customer service was excellent, but the product was lacking in quality. I had paid a lot of money for this and it only lasted me about six months. I was very objective in my review, I just stated the facts of what happened to me but that the customer service and warranty was excellent. Needless to say, it was either the website or the distributor who didn’t like what I had to say about the product and my review was removed! I wasn’t asked, either.
As an aside, it is interesting to note that Amazon will sometimes remove positive reviews from your book on their own initiative. I have not been able to figure this one out. I don’t know if the readers closed their accounts or what happened, but I did happen to notice good reviews that got deleted. I think they should have stayed. If this has ever happened to you, you can always add them (or a synopsis if you can’t remember the whole thing) in your editorial reviews section. For us authors, every good review counts! Now I have heard that Amazon polices bogus good reviews. I wonder why they don’t do that to the bad ones?
3. Paying for bogus reviews/forcing people to give you a review. This is not all bad. Kirkus is a review service. Even though you pay for the review, they are supposed to be objective in their analysis. I would not really get one for myself, but I can understand an author wanting some kind of review if no one has left one. What I don’t understand is how authors get tons of reviews (and likes) on their books. I know I have had hundreds of people so far read mine, but only a few have left feedback. Now, if you are paying people for 5 star reviews or forcing people to leave a review in exchange for your book, that is bad behavior. I have given my book away plenty of times to family and friends, and you know what? Not one of them has given me a review! I tell everyone it is nice if they want to review it, and be honest- it will not hurt my feelings- (because there are times when even I have thought what I wrote sucked!) but not necessary.
The above are the bad behaviors by authors that have stood out. Now, for the readers…
What brought this to the forefront (besides the Amazon posts) is that recently I was contacted by a company who I had bought something from. They asked me to leave a direct review on their product (I had already sent them good seller feedback) as they had discovered that a rival company was having people go in and trash their product on their website!! I promptly went out on the web and left my (5-star) review. I can’t say this enough. If you don’t treat people how you would like to be treated, regardless if it’s over the web or not, it will come back to you!!
These are the top bad behaviors I’ve noticed by readers:
1. Trashing a book you haven’t even read. Bad, bad, bad. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one. Please don’t do that. Never leave a review based only on a sample chapter, or even worse, the cover and synopsis! Give the author a fair shake by reading the book. If you don’t want to, then don’t leave a review. Period.
2. Looking for books that only have 5-star reviews and then promptly writing a negative one. C’mon now, really? I think this one disturbed me the worst. I saw where this was commented on in a forum, so I did not make this one up. An author said that they were actually contacted by a reader who does this on a routine basis. I wish I could talk to this reader to see what their rationale is. Do they know the authors personally and have a grudge against them? Even so, a review is not the place to handle it. How would they like it if someone went to their boss and trashed them with no rhyme or reason? Because that is what this is equivalent to. Again, it will come back!! You are potentially destroying someone’s livelihood! Even if these readers felt the authors bought their reviews, it is not for them to be the “police”. You don’t know that for sure. Maybe everyone really liked the book! Another author stated you can pretty much tell what negative reviews are bogus by looking at what that reviewer has read. If a reader has read only horror and then has one negative review for a romance novel, then you can pretty much figure that one out.
3. Leaving a negative review based on grammar, misspellings, etc. I consider this bad behavior. First of all, I will say that I am definitely not the grammar police. If I have a concern about what I consider bad grammar or form, I will contact that author directly and give them a heads up that they may want to re-review their book. I also do not like to use a lot of big words or flowery prose. That is just not me. I write how I talk, and that is not always the best. Anyway, I can’t tell you how many reviews I have seen that have been based on spelling and grammar, and how many reviews have had the same comments in them about spelling errors, etc. It kind of makes me think that they may be written by the same group of people, but I can’t say for sure. It also makes me think that those readers are not paying attention to the content of the book, just counting the number of “errors”. For those, I wish they would write a book so we could review it. Oh, and FYI- please make sure you don't have any spelling errors in your review if you are pinging an author for theirs. It doesn't make your review look very credible!
This concludes my summary of bad behavior by authors and readers. You may have seen some, none or all of these. In any case, this should help you be aware of what is going on. I’d be glad to hear about your experiences and thoughts!
Next post- in time for Easter- “I AM With You Always”
I thought I would take a break from all the “dark” blog entries I’ve been writing about lately and lighten up the mood (well, maybe). I thought we’d forget about the supernatural for a short while and talk about a subject that is a hot topic of conversation- the price of e-books. First off, let me say that I hope this doesn’t come across as me complaining, rambling or sounding awful, because I am really not trying to be that way- honest!!
As an author, I am not in this for the money. That is obvious by the price of my books. If you don’t know, my e-books are just 99 cents. I write for the love of writing, and because that is what I believe the good Lord put me here to do, although it took me many, many years to finally go public with it. (There’s a story to that as well, it will appear on my “Paranormal stories/Testimonials” page in the near future). I am in this for the long haul.
As authors, 99 cents is not a good price point, as far as profitability. After Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. get their share of the 99 cents, an author is left with about 35 cents per book. Definitely not earth-shattering. You’d need to sell a WHOLE lot of books to be able to quit your full-time job and write full-time, which is what I am sure all of us authors are striving for. Take into account those who buy your book and then send it back for a refund probably after reading it (why someone does that I have no clue, especially at the 99 cent price point or lower- I myself wouldn’t dream of sending it back for a refund, no matter what the price- I have always read them through and then gave them away if I didn’t want them, and that is at a whole lot more than 99 cents- OK, enough of the self-justification), and you end up with even less of a royalty check, if you get one at all. Also, there are the many hours spent writing the book, (and hiding out from the world while you pour your heart and soul into it), hiring a graphic artist, either hiring a marketer or doing that part yourself, creating book trailer(s), etc. etc. etc. and an author is extremely- let me stress this- extremely- fortunate to break even or come close. Not for the faint-hearted or those with little patience. As for the royalties I’ve received thus far? I finally got checks from Lulu and Amazon. The grand total? Almost a whopping $30. Yes, less than $30. As of this date, I have spent well over $2000 (not that I had room in my budget to do so, but hey, sometimes you have to invest in yourself) and that was just on my first book, Diary of a Demonologist.
As far as the paperback versions go, the profit is about the same, depending on which price you’ve set your book. For my paperback, I’ve kept the price as low as possible (it costs my print company over $7.00 to print the book, plus their cut, and after that, I am left with about 35 cents profit per book as well). Hardbacks don’t fare much better, depending on what the cost to print is.
Then, there’s the stigma of the 99 cent price. Readers, we can’t judge a book by the price. I myself look at books in that price point as well as others. I can buy more books though, if they are priced cheaply. Sure, there are some bad covers out there (as well as bad titles), and also books filled with grammar and spelling errors as well as just plain bad writing and that is where I feel the 99 cent price is justified, but there are a whole lot of good books out there at 99 cents too. Just because a book is priced at 99 cents does not mean that it is junk! To date, I have supported almost 100 Indie authors, and not all of those books I have bought have been at 99 cents. Being on a budget, however, I find that I can buy more and not feel bad if I never read them if I only spend 99 cents. Which brings me to another thing.
Looking at discussions out there (I like to read them, but I do not participate) I notice that a lot of readers balk at spending 99 cents on an e-book and some will even send it back for a refund! (Yes, I said it- I am not guilty of this nor do I ever plan on being guilty of it.) I don’t care if I never read the books that are currently on my electronic shelves- I will NEVER send them back for a refund. Why? Well, first of all, I can lend them to friends and family if they want something to read. Secondly, I know that the author does not get credit for the book if I send it back. That’s why. Hey, I’ve even downloaded plenty of songs and decided almost immediately that I didn’t like them anymore. I still have them on my iPod, however. FYI- I have recently broken out of my shell and started taking things back to the store that broke, etc., and I HATED taking things back. But then again, those things cost a whole lot more than 99 cents and it was getting expensive…
And yes, I’ve seen readers balk at paying 99 cents for a book. Really?? We need to get our priorities straight. We spend all this outlandish money for professional sports gear, movie tickets, etc. to support and advertise our favorite teams, celebrities, etc., all the while adding to their multi-million dollar a year salaries. Why should we complain about supporting Indie authors who are only asking a paltry sum for a book? At least we are all helping each other out. By the way, it usually costs at least .99 to 1.29 for just ONE song on iTunes…
OK, before I start sounding like “Ms. Perfect”, let me get to: So why price your book at 99 cents?
Well, for me, I decided to price mine because of two main things: 1. The economy. As a reader, books are a luxury for me. So many bills of mine have went up in price lately, so I don’t really have a ton of money to spend on books. One of the things I like to do whenever I have spare time is read. I have proof of that all over the house as well as on my Kindle app, Nook app, and iPod. So, I try not to spend too much money on books if at all possible, as I like to try to support as many authors as possible, and yes, I do read many different genres even though I love horror the most. I also do look at books which are over 99 cents. If I decide I want to read it, I’ll buy it. I will not and have not, however, paid more than $5.00 for an e-book. I don’t care if it’s by my favorite author in the whole wide world. I’ve seen plenty of e-books out there for $10 and up, and I know it’s set by their publishers, but I just won’t spend it. I like to hold books, and if I am going to pay that much, I will get a paperback or shell out more cash and get my favorites- hardbacks. As far as the books I have authored and will author, I don’t ever plan on having the e-books cost more than $5, as long as I am publishing myself. You can take that to the bank.
2. The competition. We all know that the competition in the writing world is more fierce these days than ever. It seems like everyone has a story to tell and a book to publish about it. Most are very good. Some probably should not see the light of day. All are subjective, as everyone’s tastes are different. Which is why I never go by the ratings. With all the readers out there with many different tastes, all authors can and should get a piece of the pie and be on the bestseller list at one point in time. That is what I believe. Pricing my book at 99 cents gives me a chance for someone to check me out. I’ve bought plenty of books at that price of which some I may never read. However, I don’t feel like I’ve lost that much because hey, it was only 99 cents. I mean, I spend more than that on a soda that I drink in about an hour. I also pay that much or more on just ONE song from iTunes. So really, I don’t give it much thought about downloading a 99 cent e-book which allows me to escape to another world for a while. As I’ve said before, I can also lend it to a friend if I don’t want to read it and let them enjoy it.
Which brings me to how I pick a book. I know that there are lots of discussions out there about ratings: bought ratings, bad ratings for other authors, whatever. I myself do not participate in any of that, but we can leave that for our next post. Personally, I don’t pay much attention to a book’s rating. The only ratings I do pay a lot of attention to are those for products, especially expensive ones, and then I look for a pattern in those ratings (something breaking, etc.). I know that everyone has different tastes and is not going to like all the same things. I only read the ratings out of interest; I do not let them dictate what book I buy. They are very nice to have from an author’s standpoint, but as a reader, I don’t give them much weight.
The first thing that attracts me to a book is the cover. If I like that, I will look at the title. Then, I look at the synopsis. A lot of times, I’ve just bought a book based on the cover and title and that’s all.
Well, all, I think I’ve covered enough in this post for now. What are your thoughts as an author or reader or both? I am very interested in hearing your opinions, your experiences and what has worked (or hasn’t) for you!
In two weeks: Bad Behavior by Authors... and Readers??
Darla Broadwater. We will of course discuss the supernatural but also other subjects of interest from time to time- nature, gardening, even cars!